The Unknown Warrior
Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases, Edward Fraser and John Gibbons, 1925
THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR: The bringing "home" of the body of an "Unknown Warrior"—soldier, sailor, or airman, whichever it might chance to be—from one of the Fronts and re-interring it in Westminster Abbey as representative of the British Forces in the War was first proposed in 1919, but the idea was rejected by the Cabinet. A year later the Dean and Chapter of the Abbey laid the proposal directly before the King, who desired the Cabinet to reconsider it, expressing his own approval. The Cabinet thereupon took up the idea and arrangements were made. A number of bodies were disinterred at random in various cemeteries on the Western Front, and one taken, again at random. Removed to Boulogne with every honour the French could show, Marshall Foch personally representing the French Army, and escorted by British and French destroyers to Dover, thence, again with every honour, the body was brought to Victoria and to the Cenotaph on November 11th, 1920, the day the permanent Cenotaph was unveiled. Admirals of the Fleet, Field Marshals, and a guard of honour of V.C.'s escorted the coffin, with the Padre's Flag (q.v.) over it for pall. At the Cenotaph the King, as Chief Mourner, representing the Empire, laid a wreath on it. Borne then into the Abbey, and laid in the grave in the nave, the King in the course of the funeral service strewed earth from a Flanders battlefield upon the coffin. The grave was kept open for a week, and over a million people in a queue, it was calculated, filed past it. France, Belgium, Italy and America followed suit, France laying her "Unknown Warrior" beneath the Arc de Triomphe.